Bats silent as Rockies fall in finale
Starter Jimenez struggles with command in season debut
ST. LOUIS -- Maybe the vaunted Rockies offense will arrive at Coors Field. It never made it to the three-game season-opening series at Busch Stadium.
Cardinals starter Brad Thompson struck out a career-high six in 6 2/3 innings, and three relievers completed a 3-0 victory Thursday afternoon in front of 33,748, as the Rockies dropped the final two in a three-game set.
The Rockies were shut out for the first time since last Aug. 14, when they fell, 8-0, on the road against the Padres. So it's a good time to go home, where they will get a raucous welcome before meeting the Diamondbacks on Friday afternoon in a rematch of the National League Championship Series that the Rockies swept.
Friday's opening ceremonies, plus the raising of the NL championship banner on Saturday and the presentation of the rings on Sunday make the return to Coors Field special. But manager Clint Hurdle was thinking more about the charter home Thursday night.
"I haven't slept in my bed since Super Bowl Sunday, so I'm looking forward to it," Hurdle said.
For the three games with the Cards, the Rockies managed just one run in 16 2/3 innings off Cardinals starters -- Brad Hawpe's solo shot off Todd Wellemeyer on Wednesday night. The Rockies also were 3-for-24 with runners in scoring position for the series.
Thompson (1-0) improved to 2-0 with a 1.50 ERA in seven games, including three starts, against the Rockies.
"He's a sinkerballer and he kept the ball down and threw his breaking ball in spots where he wanted to" said Matt Holliday, who went 1-for-10 in the series. "I think a lot of us, had we felt better about our swings today, might've had more success.
"Sometimes you get a group that's not swinging the bat like they want to be, it's a bad combination."
Thompson made 17 starts and 27 relief appearances for the Cards last season, and is hoping to establish himself as a starter.
"This is definitely up there," Thomposon said of his performance against the Rockies. "I hope it's one I can build on."
To cap off a difficult offensive series for the Rockies, they didn't get a run that replays suggest they should have had.
With two out and two on in the sixth, Garrett Atkins lashed a single and Todd Helton, who began at second base, tried to beat Cards left fielder Scott Schumaker's throw to the plate. Home-plate umpire Hunter Wendelstedt called Helton out, but replays indicated Helton's hand hit the plate before the tag.
That sound you hear is the sarcastic violins from San Diego, where fans still insist Holliday never touched the plate with the winning run in the 13th inning of last year's NL Wild Card tiebreaker game.
The Rockies managed six hits off Thompson, including doubles by Atkins with one out in the second, Jeff Baker with two out in the fifth and Chris Iannetta with two out in the seventh.
Lefty reliever Ron Villone replaced Thompson after Iannetta's double and forced pinch-hitter Scott Podsednik to ground out. Cards reliever Anthony Reyes struck out the side in the eighth and Jason Isringhausen pitched the ninth for his first save.
Rockies starter Ubaldo Jimenez (0-1) was wild at times, as he was during Spring Training, but ultimately passable. He gave up three runs and seven hits in five innings, despite five walks and two wild pitches. He struck out four. He threw 100 pitches in five innings.
Two innings in particular limited how deep he could pitch. After retiring the first two batters in the first, he gave up an Albert Pujols double, and walked Rick Ankiel and Troy Glaus before getting Ryan Ludwick to fly out. The struggles ran his pitch count to 24. After two were down in the fifth, he walked two and yielded an RBI single to Thompson.
The Cards opened the third with four straight singles by Aaron Miles, Pujols, Ankiel and Glaus. The latter pair of hits drove in runs. Jimenez retired the next three, with strikeouts of Jason LaRue and Thompson completing the inning.
"I know I can be better than that," said Jimenez, who was throwing in the high 90s mph as late as the fifth inning and showed no fatigue. "I'm not happy that we lost. But I did better than in Spring Training. After I got two outs, I tried to be too perfect."
Rockies reliever Luis Vizcaino rebounded from a poor first outing in Wednesday night's 8-3 loss, when he gave up four runs in one-third of an inning. On Thursday, he gave up a hit and a walk but finished a scoreless inning with a strikeout of LaRue.
"[Wednesday] was the first time I pitched and my arm wasn't too sharp, plus I was excited," said Vizcaino, who studied video of his delivery before the game and asked to pitch in Thursday's game.
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.